No. 8 Kentucky's 'ridiculous' schedule continues vs. No. 22 Mississippi State

(AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

(AP) -- No. 8 Kentucky will be looking for its fifth straight conference win Tuesday night when the Wildcats host No. 22 Mississippi State.

Kentucky (14-3, 4-1 SEC) will be playing the second of three consecutive games against ranked competition.

The Wildcats are coming off an 82-80 win last weekend at then-No. 14 Auburn. This Saturday, Kentucky will host ninth-ranked Kansas as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

"This is the part of our schedule that is like ridiculous," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "None of it is easy because you're going to play road games. But this part ... we've got every good team in this league twice. Every good team, we've got twice."

Kentucky raced out to a big lead Saturday and then held off a furious Auburn rally to win by two points in sold-out Auburn Arena.

"They were down by 17 and they never stopped," Calipari said.

"But guess what? Neither did we. In a game like this, it's fight. If you couldn't fight you couldn't be in there because the game is physical, a lot of hand-to-hand combat. It's how the game is played here. You've gotta play. Proud of them."

Mississippi State (14-3, 2-2) will arrive at Rupp Arena riding a two-game winning streak after starting league play 0-2. The Bulldogs defeated Florida 71-68 last Tuesday and then whipped Vanderbilt 71-55 on Saturday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and never looking back.

"This league is ridiculous," Calipari said.

"Some of you remember me saying, 'Let's get to the point where we're getting eight, nine, 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Everybody laughed at me. 'We're a three-bid league,' and all that stuff. Now you look at this and say, 'Oh my God, we may get 10 teams in.'"

Kentucky has four players averaging in double figures scoring.

Keldon Johnson is tops at 14.9 points per game, followed by Tyler Herro (13.5), Reid Travis (13.0) and PJ Washington (11.8). Washington also leads UK in rebounding at 7.9 per game.

Kentucky is shooting 48.9 percent from the field -- third-best in the SEC -- including 34.9 from 3-point range. The Wildcats average 80.2 points.

Quinndary Witherspoon tops Mississippi State at 16.6 points per game. Next comes Lamar Peters at 13.3, Aric Holman at 12.4 and Nick Weatherspoon at 10.3. Holman tops the Bulldogs in rebounding at 8.1.

Mississippi State is making 48.0 percent of its shots from the field, including 38.1 percent from 3-point range. The Bulldogs average 79.0 points per game and have a plus-5.9 rebounding margin.

"The best thing statistically that we did is that they did not get an offensive rebound in the second half," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said after the Vanderbilt game. "They had zero offensive rebounds, which means we did a better job blocking out and really going to the ball."

One key stat to watch is that Mississippi State has made 156 3-pointers this season, second-best in the SEC. Kentucky ranks 13th out of 14 teams with only 102 3-point baskets.

"This league is just so tough. It's a monster," Howland said. "Every game is so difficult."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 22, 2019

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